jefferson parish & steve theriot versus nola.com & anonymous commenters
Jefferson Parish and Interim Parish President Steve Theriot filed suit Friday in order to get the identities of people who have written critical comments on two blogs.
“I think the goal is to silence people that have been publishing very insightful commentary on the internet
regarding the workings of parish government,” said Doug Handshoe, co-creator of the blog spot Slabbed.
Handshoe and his partner started Slabbed in 2007 as an informational outlet for voters, mostly in Louisiana and Mississippi.
The lawsuit targets commenters on Slabbed and Nola.com.
“In Jefferson Parish we have covered, in particular, the Redflex controversy but also the landfill. And we've done, through our commenters and some investigation that we've done ourselves, we've made several connections involving Mr. Theriot, John Alario, Mr. Butch Ward who owns the landfill. There's a big story out there regarding the landfill,” said Handshoe.
The lawsuit claims anonymous users have published defamatory statements about Theriot and Jefferson Parish management.
Handshoe , who lives in Mississippi, says he has not formally received a copy of the suit, but according to court documents Nola.com is being asked to turn over tracking information on 11 screen name users.
Fox 8 legal analyst Joe Raspanti says Theriot and the parish will have a tough time on two fronts: Nola.com and Slabbed are not likely to give up their commenters' information easily and proving the case may not be easy either.
“It's tougher if you’re a public figure because a public figure has to prove that not only was it a lie, or is incorrect, but they have to prove that you knew it and maliciously said it anyway,” said Raspanti.
Handshoe says the lawsuit won't effect how he runs his blog.
“It's the taxpayers money in Jefferson Parish that's funding the suit, which I think is designed to intimidate bloggers and internet commenters into silence regarding the political corruptions scandal that's ongoing in the parish,” said Handshoe.
The lawsuit was filed in Jefferson Parish so it covers Nola.com but since the Slabbed bloggers are based in Mississippi they would probably have to be sued there or in federal court.
Theriot says he will not comment on parish litigation.